With about $600 and a few tools, hackers could fake the radio signals used by commercial airplanes to navigate and land safely, according to new research.
In a paper and demonstration from researchers at Northeastern University in Boston, a software defined radio — a non-traditional radio that uses software instead of hardware for many components — successfully tricks a simulated plane into thinking that the aircraft is traveling off-course.
Through a process called ‘spoofing’ — a term also applied to scam and robo-callers who fake their numbers — researchers are able to deceive an aircraft’s course deviation indicator into thinking the plane is off-center.
This causes it to misalign or falsely ‘correct’ its trajectory and land adjacent to the runway.
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With about $600 and a few tools, hackers could fake the radio signals used by commercial airplanes to navigate and land safely, according to new research. In a scary demonstrations, researchers were able to simulate an attack on the radio signals used by nearly all aircraft
As first reported by Ars Technica, the radio signals spoofed by their device, are the same signals used in almost every aircraft throughout the last 50 years, including those on-board large commercial jetliners.
Because of the technology’s age, radio signals used in Instrument Landing Systems (ILS), are not encrypted or authenticated like other digitally transferred data, they say.
While the tools used by researchers in the demonstration aren’t necessarily new, Ars Technica notes that the cost of such devices have come down, making the type of attack more feasible for hackers than ever before.
Researchers note that an attack using their method is possible, but in many cases, misaligned planes can swiftly be corrected by adept pilots who are able to see their positioning in clear conditions and either adjust or perform a fly-around.